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To the end of the line

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January had been humid and cold, but without the frost Ichigo remembered from previous years. A pity, since the icier the weather, the more inspired he found himself. His imagination rolled with more ease when there wasn't a bright sun distracting him with promises of a more filling day. As embarrassing as it was, the discomfort of cold made it all the more pleasant to come up with images of lovers seeking warmth in the homeliness of a small rooms and lit fireplaces.

Ichigo Kurosaki was a writer, and a decent one, and although his stories weren't exactly about star crossed lovers so much as they were about detectives and unresolved crimes, he didn't really stop himself from including the occasional sap. And maybe because he'd been single for a long time, those were his favorite bits to write, and his readers certainly appreciated it. His most successful novel yet had landed a spot on the best seller list for a few weeks, and since then he had struggled to outdo it.

So far the world seemed to be against him. The only reminder of Winter was how quickly the day ended and gave way to darkness. The weather was completely mild otherwise. When he took the train every day it was dark already, and without even the glowing white of snow popping out in the landscape, he lost himself more easily in the people boarding with him than in the things outside. In fact, he was pretty sure the man in front of him already noticed his obvious fascination.

It wasn't that Ichigo wasn't trying to be subtle, but more often than not, he found himself staring openly at the stranger with no thought of restraint, and it didn't help that the man seemed to be a constant presence, always on the same carriage and always at the same schedule. This was the seventh day in a row in which they sat across each other, never a word shared between them.

In his own defense, Ichigo couldn't be blamed for staring. Whenever the man got in, people turned heads to look at him, even if briefly. His hair was a light blue, gelled up wildly until only a few loose strands fell on his forehead and his eyes were the same color, but darker, brighter, deeper. He was tall, with broad shoulders, moving gracefully in a strange, commanding way, a permanent scowl on his face. He carried himself with some sort of lonesome pride, and he dressed like a punk too, with brash clothes and fingers filled with rings, chains of silver across his neck in some fashion statement as over-the-top and somehow befitting as his clawed hair.

For the seventh time, Ichigo looked away only to reach for his notebook and write, that silent man being as cold and icy as the Winter that always inspired him. So far he had no sense of plot, but he had an antagonist. Someone inspired by a strange person like that could never be anything else.

 


  

Every day, the eye catching blue haired man entered the train on the same station, and every day he'd take the same seat, facing Ichigo without offering a single sign of acknowledgment.

The stranger took on the habit of bringing headphones with him, the music loud enough for Ichigo to hear it. It sounded like more or less what he'd expect someone like that to enjoy, with loud riffs, storming drums and yelling. A lot of angry yelling.

He would have thought it interesting, but to be honest it was getting annoying. What was the point of headphones when other passengers could hear everything anyway? If the train was noisy with people chatting, sneezing and what more, at least it had the gentleness of fading into a background murmur that he could easily tune out, but this man... Everything about him was loud and distracting. Inspirational, sure, but distracting, and the truth was that Ichigo needed to pull his head off the clouds and get work done. Too many days – weeks - had passed, and excusing himself to his agent with a writer's block wasn't sticking anymore.

His free time was spent thinking of that man, imagining how his personality would be from what little he could observe, writing down what his voice could sound like, what his body felt like underneath the heavy clothes, what it'd be like to go against the strength he seemed to effortlessly project. Ichigo was positive that at this point, he was basically plagiarizing a real person as he wrote down traits of his antagonist, forcing himself to tweak the character's looks here and there just so it wouldn't be a straight up copy of the stranger.

Not that he knew how accurate he was in his assumptions of the other's attitude, as they hadn't exchanged a single word, but he'd always been good at guessing, and despite everything his mind was relatively grounded. He teased the idea of a taunting, flirtatious man, only to scratch it upon gazing at the stranger's frown, eyes cold and calculating like a panther.

It was almost as though he could hear his thoughts, as if Ichigo had to hide them from that blue stare.

“You piss me off.”

Just like that, the deep voice broke his musings and Ichigo raised his stare from his notes, eyes wide open in surprise.

Him?

“Yeah, you.”

Ichigo straightened his back without thinking, suddenly alarmed at how the man really seemed to read his mind. Had he asked that out loud or was that guy just really perceptive?

“Always staring at me, taking notes.” The deep voice continued, cold, blue eyes fixed on Ichigo's. “What are you, a stalker?”

“You're the one who sits across from me every day.” Ichigo snapped, having thought of that before, knowing his own bright hair was too much of a beacon not to be noticed.

“This is my spot.”

“I don't see your name on it.” Ichigo snapped back, immediately biting his lip at the childish retort. He must have spent so much time around his teenage sisters lately that their sibling bickering rubbed off on him.

The other man just scoffed at the response. Ichigo might have been mildly interested by the other's appearance but he wasn't a pushover. A frown found his own features in an instant.

“What's your name?” The man spoke again, demanding and unkind.

“What is it to you?”

Another scoff.

“True, I don't really care.”

As he spoke, his eyes left Ichigo's and his head turned to face the train's window, leaving the writer in silence. It made Ichigo wonder if he might have overreacted. If maybe that was just how the other man was, and he meant no harm by it. Could have been like that, he met his fair share of weirdo's who were aggressive on the outside and nice enough where it counted.

“Kurosaki Ichigo.” He offered, sighing, still looking at the other man with curiosity. He hadn't yet named the character the other man inspired, finding that nothing he came up with sounded fitting. “Yours?”

The blue eyes glanced from the window, where night reigned in the rural scenario and only a few dispersed and distant lights broke the darkness. Ichigo continued to look at him, waiting for an answer, wondering if the long pause was because his name got recognized, until the man finally responded.

“Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez.” Following the words, his eyes returned to the window.

“You don't sound from around. Are you from another country?”

“Orange hair doesn't look like it's from around either. Are you foreign, Kurosaki Ichigo?” Grimmjow snarled back, obviously annoyed.

“Fair enough.” Ichigo leaned back on his seat, trying to keep his scowling at a bare minimum. 

Grimmjow's eyes darted to the notebook still on Ichigo's lap, nodding to it with a distrustful expression.

“What have you been writing in there?”

“A rough story draft.” Ichigo nearly lauched at himself. A draft. That's what he was meant to be doing, but Instead the notebook had been filled with trivial observations and Grimmjow-inspired daydreams. “I'm a novelist, but I haven't got much so far.”

“Sure doesn't look like it.”

For a brief moment, Ichigo wondered if Grimmjow would move his hand and swiftly take the notebook from him to read what was in it. Unbelievably, it hadn't been the first time someone had the nerve to do so, but the man returned his gaze to the window instead. Despite the relief of seeing him appear uncaring, the writer's hand still covered his notes protectively. If there was even the slightest possibility of anyone reading his notes as they were then, he would have died of embarrassment.

They were that obvious.

“So, you've got books released?” Grimmjow broke the silence again, the awkwardness soothed by the pleasant timbre of his voice.

“Yeah. Ever read Howling?” Ichigo asked, his best seller being the best chance at recognition.

“I don't read.” Grimmjow answered, and Ichigo couldn't push back the disappointment.

“You should.”

The glare he got as response quickly silenced him for the rest of the trip and Grimmjow didn't make a single effort to make conversation again.

When the train arrived to his station, Ichigo nodded as a farewell, the gesture gone completely ignored.

 


 

When the following work day ended for Ichigo, the writer wondered whether the other man – Grimmjow, a name that rolled strangely on his tongue – would tolerate his company again after the last words they spoke. He thought the reaction to be out of proportion to what he said. People read less and less each day, and he'd had his fair share of eyes rolled at him for pointing it out, but as a writer he always took the disinterest a little bit too personally.

He couldn't really understand how people (and not just his newest acquaintance) didn't make an effort, so his little admonishments, if you could even call them that, left his lips without much thinking. Yet, Grimmjow seemed to take them as an insult.

Despite Ichigo's wondering, at the usual spot, the blue haired man entered once again and sat in the seat in front of his, without so much as a “hello”, as if the previous day had never happened. However, for a brief moment their eyes met in recognition, and somehow that was enough.

It was back to the usual routine, Ichigo writing down notes, suddenly more motivated and feeling for the first time in a while that he was getting somewhere, and Grimmjow puling up his headphones and closing his eyes at some loud music as though it was relaxing.

Or at least, it looked like that at first. The noise leaving the headphones was an annoyance, but Ichigo could somehow still ignore it, his mind focusing on the plot that was unraveling in his notes. It seemed their little dialogue the previous day helped him get away from his antagonist character – now a mysterious, deep voiced man of foreign descent, he decided – and onto building the World around him. One thing led to another as he traced a mind map of notes and ideas until a layout of what he wanted started to form. The loud music wasn't a deterrent to that, but when Grimmjow reacted to it a bit more intensely after twenty relatively calm minutes, his patience started to wear out.

Brown eyes dropped to see the other man's feet marking the rhythm of whatever he was listening to on the floor at a fast pace. Noisy, distracting.

Looking up, he was met with Grimmjow's closed eyes, his head tilted back as his body moved lightly with the motion his legs made, and his lips parted softly, brows furrowed, looking focused to the music.

Fuck if that wasn't even more distracting than the background noise coming out of his headphones. Ichigo caught himself staring, his own mouth open at the sight before annoyance took hold of him again. Whether he was miffed at the display or at his own reaction to it, he couldn't tell.

“You mind lowering the volume? I'm trying to focus.” He spoke, trying to ease the scowl on his own face. Feeling his own cheeks hotter than usual wasn't helping.

Grimmjow only opened one eye to look at him, head still tilted back as though he had been disturbed by some nonsense. Almost disdainfully, he closed it again, completely ignoring the other's request.

Ichigo knew the other man wasn't the type with good manners, but even so he found himself angry at the dismissal.

“Some of us have work to do.” He snapped again, and a bit surprisingly, Grimmjow snarled and opened his eyes, raising his chin like someone scorned.

“You think you're better than me?” It wasn't a question, but an accusation. Ichigo's mouth opened, but he couldn't think of words to say as he was once more caught off guard by Grimmjow's defensiveness. “You think you can look down on me because you sit and write books all day like you're some holier-than-thou intellectual and I'm some street punk? That I don't work?”

“Nobody said that--” Ichigo started, only to be interrupted again as Grimmjow practically spit more words at him.

“You don't know shit about me, so shut the fuck up.”

For a few moments, Ichigo was completely bewildered at the reaction. When his brain caught up with what happened, he realized the other passengers were glancing at them, having heard Grimmjow's outburst and filling the carriage in an awkward silence. Then he looked back at the other, finding anger again.

“I asked you to lower your music, you don't have to overreact like that.” His voice wasn't loud, Ichigo not wanting to attract further attention to themselves, but that didn't make it any less aggravated. Grimmjow only bared his teeth, still looking at him with contempt.

“You don't like it, you can sit somewhere else.”

Ichigo never really knew why he stubbornly picked the same seat every day, even knowing Grimmjow would later join in. Or maybe he did know and avoided thinking about it the best he could. Part of him was curious to see if the man would still sit across from him if he took a different spot, but another part knew the answer to it already and didn't want to miss out on the company. It was laughable, really, how much he enjoyed the other's silent presence when he was so infuriatingly distracting. Proudly alone he once described Grimmjow among his notes, and he could see why when the strange man so easily drove him away.

Ichigo wasn't intolerant or difficult, or at least he didn't think he was, but he was no saint. He didn't feel like putting up with this from anyone, let alone some stranger on the train home after a long and tiredsome day.

“Aren't you the prima donna?” He rose from his seat, a frown deep on his face as he grabbed his bag and notes, eyes never leaving Grimmjow who coldly faced the window as though he couldn't care less about anything.

Ichigo left without another word, swallowing down more insults and taking a seat near the train's door, facing the opposite way so that he wouldn't even have to see the blue haired nonsense from the corners of his vision.

 


 

Ichigo spent next few days of his train travels alone and frankly at ease. The only disturbance of the trips was when the doors ahead of him opened and a flash of blue got inside, walking past him towards the usual seat. Ichigo never raised his head to look at the other man, and neither did blue eyes look down to him, as though they were once again complete strangers.

Ichigo frowned. They were strangers, yes, but not enough not to know each other's names, and at least for his part, having a vague perception of how the other's personality was. For some reason thinking that he lost the chance to learn more bothered him more than he could admit, so he took to distract himself with his story, focusing on everything about it besides the antagonist.

Maybe it wasn't an ideal way to cope, but at least he was getting things done. It wasn't as though he was so completely enamored that he couldn't get absorbed on anything besides Grimmjow or the fiction he inspired. He snorted at himself.

Enamored, yeah right. Curious was a better word, fascinated at most. Had he been the least bit smitten, he wouldn't have so resiliently avoided looking at the row of seats behind him, where Grimmjow would always sit.

His lips pressed into a thin line.

He hadn't seen the blue flash of hair enter the station today, and part of him wondered if Grimmjow had taken to using the opposite, more distant door to completely avoid him. Ichigo laughed at the idea. Of course he would, the man was petty enough to do so, wasn't he?

As his pencil poked uninspired dots on the notebook's paper, Ichigo wondered if Grimmjow would be there when he looked back at his seat, catching his eye with the usual scorn. He didn't want to be the one to look first. Somehow that felt like losing a competition, and if there was anything he didn't want it was to lose to that obnoxious man. Still, he needed to confirm his theory, he needed to see for himself whether he was being avoided or not. At least if it was the case, Ichigo could keep his head raised without worrying about avoiding the other whenever they neared Grimmjow's station.

As the train reached his stop, he stood up, walking towards the exit and letting his eyes drift to the seats in search of a blue blur.

He frowned, now completely turning his head in that direction. Grimmjow wasn't there.

 


 

He saw him on the following day, and somehow a wave of relief washed over him, purposeless and illogical as it was. Ichigo didn't know why he wanted to see the other man again, but he did, an oddity since Grimmjow wasn't that big of a part in his life. He made no significant difference in it and changing nothing of his day but a forty minute train trip, and yet, he had managed to leave his mark. However small it might have been, it burned deep.

The relief he felt at the blue blur vanished as quickly as it came, when he noticed the slight limp of the other's feet and raised his eyes to find dark red.

He couldn't help looking, and he wasn't the only one. The other passengers, scattered across the seats stared in shock at the sight.

Grimmjow didn't acknowledge them, and he didn't make an effort to ignore the stares either. He seemed completely distraught, as though his mind was very far away, as he walked towards his seat and slumped down on it. It took too long for Ichigo to realize he was staring, but as soon as he did, his feet moved towards Grimmjow on their own accord.

Blue eyes finally saw him as he sat down on the seat across the other man.

Grimmjow's face was covered in dry blood, the red having spilled from a gash on his forehead onto his short sleeved shirt, glaringly obvious against the white fabric. In the cold Winter night, that was all he was wearing. A white shirt, his usual jacket nowhere to be seen, no jewelry, no decorations besides the fresh bruises on his arms and the swell of a busted lip. Whatever happened to him wasn't something he could brush off, but the dark brown color of the dry blood showed it had been a while since the injuries stopped bleeding.

Ichigo reached for his bag, where he'd keep a small laptop, notebooks and among other small things, tissues and the usual bottle of water. Around him, passengers still stared, albeit hesitantly, overly cautious as if they didn't know if it was a good idea to get involved. Ichigo grabbed a tissue, dropping a small amount of water in it before leaning in and pressing it on Grimmjow's face.

The blue haired man winced, meeting Ichigo's brown eyes with an unspoken question on his lips. Why? However, he said nothing, slowly allowing the writer to gently wipe his face, cleaning the dry blood to reveal tender flesh. It wasn't the ideal way to clean an injury, as the reddish brown was stuck to the skin after being there for too long, but Ichigo did what he could with what he had, and remained gentle, holding back the temptation to scrap the dirt away.

Little by little, Grimmjow eased into the gestures, words unspoken between them. Ichigo wanted to ask, but held back at the exhaustion on the other's eyes, instead focusing on making him a bit more presentable. He was almost taken aback when he felt Grimmjow leaning his head against his palm as he wiped a bruised cheek, as though the man yearned for a gentle touch after whatever happened to him. He was even more surprised when he found his own hand lingering.

The cleaning wasn't thorough, but it made Grimmjow look good enough. As he finished, brown eyes fell to the white shirt, the man's bare arms with raised skin even in the heated train. Ichigo stood from his seat, taking off his jacket and offering it.

“I don't need your pity...” Grimmjow croaked, half lidded eyes taking note of the writer's action.

“You'll freak people out if you walk around all bloody.” Ichigo simply stated, remaining calm. Now was not the time to argue with him.

If the blue haired man wanted to conceal the favor under some other guise, so be it. After a moment's hesitation, he took the jacket, slowly lifting his back from the seat to put it on, the ache on his limbs evident as he moved to get dressed. Almost paternally, Ichigo reached forward and zipped the jacket up over the large blood stain, finishing with two light pats on the Grimmjow's chest.

The man looked at him with a raised eyebrow at the gesture, to which the writer could only grin sheepishly. It was a habit that came with looking after two younger sisters. As quickly as it came, his smile faded, and he leaned forward again with serious eyes.

“My father owns a clinic near my apartment, if you want we can get you checked, no questions asked.”

Grimmjow swatted a hand Ichigo didn't realize had rested on the other's arm, grunting his reply.

“No. I'm fine, don't worry about it.”

The way he looked – and even the raspy, weak tone of his voice – told that he wasn't fine at all, but Ichigo didn't fight him on it. Grimmjow seemed to just want to brush the situation away, his trembling hands reaching to his pocket to retrieve a phone and a pair of ear plugs. Ichigo had to stop himself from taking them and untangling them himself when he saw the unsteady shaking of the other man's fingers, but despite everything, Grimmjow's pride was still well present on his mind.

He didn't want to provoke the other man when he clearly didn't want to show weakness. Not when he was still worried and knew the wrong words would only distance them further. Eventually, Grimmjow managed to put the still somewhat tangled plugs to his ears, putting on the same loud music as always, leaning back with a sigh like whatever ordeal he had gone through was finally over.

When the train arrived to Ichigo's stop, he hesitated, looking at the blue haired man that sat leaning back with his eyes closed.

“Go.” Grimmjow croaked, unmoving, having noticed that Ichigo hadn't stood up. “I'll return the jacket tomorrow.”

Ichigo smirked, as if that had been the reason he stayed in his place.

“It'd better be clean when I get it back.” He said, picking his bag and leaving the train, the water bottle he used left behind just in case Grimmjow needed some.

 


 

The following day had been rough. Despite having enough success as a writer, Ichigo still had a part time job, for the sake of remaining active instead of sitting at home behind his laptop all day. It was the reason he caught the 17.25 train every day, and where he socialized with most of his friends. Occasionally they would go out for drinks at the end of work, to unwind the weeks frustrations, but it had been a while since Ichigo took their invitation.

He excused himself with having to write his book, and they let him be with only a few nags but no real questioning. It suited him just fine. He wasn't about to explain he said no just for the sake of sitting next to a stranger on the way home, which was what Grimmjow was in all honesty. Ichigo didn't know the man at all, didn't know where he lived, what his age was, or where the bizarre name came from (and he had no plans to try asking after the reaction he got from the last time he mentioned it).

All he knew was that the icy man was somehow inspiring, and despite them barely talking, he got most of his main plot points down while at his presence. The moment he arrived to his small apartment, his laptop was out to lay down his story. Today however, he was more worried with catching the train than usual, and of all days it was today that his job pressed him the most. He hadn't had the time to lunch, and hadn't eaten anything since his light breakfast, so he stopped on a food stand near the train station, hoping to be able to snack on the way home without any officers reproaching him for it.

Munching on takoyaki inside public transportation wasn't exactly subtle, but he was hungry enough not to care.

Embarrassingly, he also bought extra for his usual company. He could play it cool, he was sure of it.

He had wondered all day how Grimmjow was faring after the disturbing blood filled sight of the previous evening, trying his best to brush away his concern, but never quite managing to get rid of it. When said man finally entered the train with a look of good disposition, a weight Ichigo hadn't before noticed lifted off his chest. Wordlessly, Grimmjow sat on the usual spot across from him, glancing at the serving of takoyaki and then at Ichigo with an odd look.

The writer frowned defensively, offering the other man a bit regardless. Somehow, the action seemed to surprise Grimmjow, and he pressed.

“Have some. I didn't have lunch today, so I got hungry.”

The other man looked amused, but took the offering, popping a ball into his mouth. Then he lifted a nondescript carrier bag, handing it to Ichigo.

“Your jacket.” He explained, as the writer placed it on the empty seat besides them.

“Thanks.” Ichigo kept his hand holding the takoyaki towards Grimmjow, who wordlessly took him on his offer. He was starting to get used to his unconventional attitude, but once again he found himself taken back by Grimmjow's bluntness.

“I said before I don't want your pity.”

“This has nothing to do with pity.” Ichigo scoffed. He wasn't sure what exactly it had to do with, but it wasn't because he felt sorry for Grimmjow. If anything, he was a hard person to feel sorry for, talking as if any offering was an offense while uninterruptedly stuffing his mouth in it.

“You were sitting far away from me until yesterday.” Grimmjow muttered with a mouthful.

“You pissed me off... But I like this spot better, not gonna let you ruin it for me.” Ichigo threw back, wearing his most detached face before letting his eyes fall on the other man. His lips and cheek were swollen, and a blueish bruise was making its way into the skin under his left eye, but his appearance was still a considerable improvement from the other day's. “So, how did that happen?”

The question was inevitable, but for once, Grimmjow didn't seem too bothered by it.

“I'm a no good punk, remember? Wrong crowds, you name it.”

“I never called you that.” Ichigo said. “I called you a prima donna, and you're still acting like one.”

Grimmjow scoffed, but an amused smile found his lips. Maybe it was the food making him more affable, but the change in his mood from one day to the other was nothing short of impressive.

“It won't happen again, so quit acting like a mother hen.” He grunted, blue eyes suddenly questioning. “You got kids or something?”

It was Ichigo's turn to snort.

“No.”

“Single?” Grimmjow continued, which gained him an amused look and a raised eyebrow. “Just asking.”

“Yeah.” Ichigo answered after a few moments, handing the entire takoyaki serving to Grimmjow before reaching for his notebook and falling into the usual routine. He would have returned the question, but he didn't really want an answer.

They fell in amicable silent once again, Grimmjow finishing off the food on his own, while Ichigo filled his pages with notes, sighing as he flicked through them to find the notebook almost at its end. He had written all over it quite quickly, and he knew why. He couldn't help the soft laugh that left his lips when he thought of how he found a muse of sorts in a man whose first words to him were that he pissed him off.

Just his luck.

 


 

It was raining outside, the water splattering across the windows and sliding down their surface as the train moved. Like a child, Ichigo stared at each drop as they raced down the glass. He wasn't a fan of rainy days, too many bad memories surfacing on those, but watching the path of water trailing on the windows during a downpour was always weirdly distracting. So much so that he lost track of time, of stations, of the darkness that fell even earlier on that day.

He was only brought back to the present when he heard the slouching of someone on the seat in front of his, looking up to find Grimmjow with his usual headphones over his hair, this time soaking wet and falling on his forehead awkwardly. It rained enough to flood the streets, but somehow bits of hair gel resisted enough to keep a few wild strands of blue standing on his head. Ichigo almost wanted to pat them down one by one.

Then he noticed the arms clenched around the other man's chest, the large coat obviously trying to cover something from the downpour.

“What have you got there?” Ichigo asked before he could help himself. For a few seconds Grimmjow looked annoyed at the question, his mood clearly different from the previous day's pleasant one. Then he moved to get rid of the jacket with a nonchalant expression that was mismatched with his former care.

“Didn't want to get this wet.” He said, pulling a small notebook from the bundle of clothes and handing it to Ichigo, who hesitated to take it until Grimmjow threw him an impatient groan.

Ichigo opened it to find it brand new.

“Is this for me?” He asked, suddenly feeling dumber than usual.

“You don't want it, give it back.” Grimmjow frowned, looking offended at the question.

“No!” Without thinking, Ichigo pulled it to his chest, his brown eyes still wide with surprise. He had put down buying a new one that day, but the truth was he desperately needed one. Grimmjow must have noticed his old one was running out of space. “No, I want it. Thanks... You didn't have to.”

The blue haired man rolled his eyes at the words, obviously not caring for the gratefulness. Still, Ichigo couldn't hide his surprise that the man actually went out of his way to buy him a notebook for some reason. He tried to rationalize it, thinking that maybe he felt like he owed it for yesterday's snacks? While the thought was oddly considerate, Ichigo didn't want to receive anything every time he did some trivial act of kindness.

“It's okay. I have plenty. Work at an art school's stationary.” Grimmjow said.

Ichigo almost snorted. There went the other man's thoughtfulness.

“Should you be taking their stuff?” The writer asked.

“Nobody needs to know.”

Well that settled it then.

“Are you an artist?” Ichigo asked, feeling a little bit like he was pushing his luck with the other man. Having already been told where he worked, as mundane as it was, felt like a huge development on its own.

“If I was, I wouldn't be selling supplies, I'd be buying them.” Grimmjow replied sardonically.

“So you can't draw at all?” Ichigo pressed, undeterred by the other's tone. For some reason, it didn't bother him like it used to anymore, having become just as part of Grimmjow as the blue of his hair.

Silence fell on them for a few more moments, but Ichigo's eyes remained expectant, waiting for an answer to his question even if the other man seemed to be trying to end that conversation. Eventually, Grimmjow let out an impatient sigh, his hand gesturing at Ichigo for the notebook.

“Pencil.” He added, waiting for Ichigo to scramble his backpack for one.

Without a care, Grimmjow pressed his two feet on the seat in front of him, dirty boots on each side of Ichigo's legs, as he lifted his knees to rest the brand new notebook on his thighs. Then, he looked at the paper, hesitating before lightly brushing the pencil across the surface. When Ichigo tried to move to his side and look at what he was doing, Grimmjow threw him a dirty look, his calf pushing him back to his seat with surprising strength.

It didn't take too long for the picture to be finished, Ichigo quietly observing the whole time, finding that he wanted to know more about the other man the more he learned about him, a rare quality to have.

When Grimmjow handed the notebook back to him, he saw a doodle of a small cat on the corner of the very first page, sketchy and minimalist, its lines on top of each other as if the picture was a study of something. He smiled as he saw it, finding it a perfect signature of the other man.

Before he had time to say something, Grimmjow was already looking out the window, doing his usual best to ignore him, his feet still propped at Ichigo's seat.

He closed the notebook and put it in his bag, brown eyes back to watching rain drops on the glass. He didn't feel like writing that night.

 


 

The rain only lasted a day, and Ichigo was thankful for it. When he was young people would comment on his bright hair looking like a ray of light, and more than one girlfriend had offered him a cheesy compliment along the lines of “you are like a walking Sun”. It wasn't just that it was corny, like something taken out of a bad poetry book, but when there was a downpour he felt like everything but sunny.

He held the notebook in his hands, still empty besides that small cat lurking at the bottom corner of the first page. Suddenly he was back to his writer's block, although he figured it was less a problem of lacking inspiration than it was of sheer laziness. He didn't want to write. He didn't know what he wanted to do exactly, but fiction wasn't it.

A ring signaled the train's doors opening, and a blur of blue walked inside and sat in front of him like every other day. Grimmjow never said hi, and only on a good day did he nod. Instead he slumped on his seat as though he owned the place, uncaring and unabashed, his legs spread in the typical manly fashion to take as much space as he possibly could. It was likely more of a possessive action than anything, challenging anyone who'd consider sitting next to him. Ichigo always struggled not to brush his own knees against the other's, indulging on the rare occasion in which he was too lazy to adjust and when Grimmjow seemed not to care the least bit about that. He was probably right, making a big deal out of the contact was Ichigo seeing too much on things that didn't matter.

Ichigo couldn't comment on it, anyway, as he too often rested his backpack on the seat next to him to discourage people.

Brown eyes caught blue looking at him, cold and half lidded as always, yet somehow impenetrable.

“Not writing today?” Grimmjow asked, his own headphones forgotten at his neck instead of his ears.

“Not today.” Ichigo nodded.

No, today he didn't want to write. Today he wanted to sit on the train until morning came, just enjoying Grimmjow's silent presence. Today he wanted nothing more than to stay inside until the very end of the line, at Rukongai beach, and have Grimmjow join him in the sands that were always empty during the winter.

He smiled at the thought, to which Grimmjow threw him an undecipherable look, not quite amused, not quite curious, not quite smiling... Interested, perhaps. They sat in silence for minutes, Ichigo resting his head against the window's glass, and Grimmjow keeping his headphones at his neck.

Grimmjow didn't say a word when they passed Ichigo's stop and the writer didn't leave. He just looked into brown eyes, wondering how exactly they could seem so bright when they were such a commonly plain color, so unlike his own.

Thirty minutes felt like hours when Ichigo finally spoke, his voice quiet and soothing.

“Where's your stop?”

Grimmjow smirked, a glimpse of sharp teeth showing.

“Passed by it ten minutes ago.”

Ichigo leaned back on his seat at the answer, a large smile across his lips.

 

 



 

 

Kurosaki Ichigo was a writer, and a decent one, but during his so far small career he had only managed to get one book in the Best Sellers list: Howling. It was nothing to be ashamed of, quite the contrary. He never thought he'd ever end up in such a place at all, so even just having one be that successful was incredibly rewarding.

Still, he couldn't lie and say he hadn't been trying to outdo himself since then. A well received book was one thing, but to finally step out of the shadow of that one work was the ultimate goal, harder to fulfill than one would think.

Five years after his breakthrough story, and one year after he met a brash blue haired man on the train home from work, he finally made it. The title of his new best seller was The Panther King, and Grimmjow laughed at the “gaudiness” of it until it came to his knowledge that it was inspired by him.

For a man who didn't pick up books, he had turned out to be quite the avid reader. Ichigo didn't know whether to be embarrassed or happy at how Grimmjow didn't take his eyes away from his novel on their quiet train trips together, but at least it was entertaining to study his reactions.

Occasionally he looked bored, other times focused, and every once in a while he would read something very familiar and gaze at Ichigo with a taunting smirk on his lips. The writer could more or less guess which passages caught Grimmjow's attention the most, having taken a lot from his own personal life to put on those pages. Had he known the other man would actually read his work, he would have toned down the flattering descriptions of the Grimm-esque antagonist. As it was, he was giving an already unbearable ego the stroking of a lifetime.

Ichigo had come to know him well after their trip to the beach all those months ago. Grimmjow was older than him, not as quiet as their travels made it seem, arrogant and conceited, endlessly provocative, incredibly defensive over every little thing, and with a penchant for getting into fights – and even bigger one for winning them. For his part, Ichigo found himself an expert of sorts at pushing Grimmjow's buttons. It made him wonder how exactly they hadn't walked away from each other just yet.

“I'll see you at eight?” Ichigo asked, all too amused at the other man's current focus. Blue eyebrows frowned, almost annoyed at the interruption, as the writer waited for an answer.

Grimmjow only bothered to wave his hand at him, as if telling him to get going and leave him be, his eyes still fixed on what he was reading.

Ichigo rolled his eyes and got up, leaving the train to get ready for the rest of the night, no longer having to wait for the next day to see the other man again.